DARYL BRAITHWAITE’S ICONIC AUSSIE TRACK THE HORSES TURNS 25
I t has become our unofficial national anthem, way up in the sky with Farnsey’s You’re The
Voice, little darling. But Daryl Braithwaite never thought his cover of The
Horses was more than a lastminute album track.
Twenty-five years later, with the song more popular than ever, he’s happy to be very, very wrong. Here’s a potted history of the modern Oz classic:
It’s mid-1990. Braithwaite has just finished his album, Rise. It’s the follow-up to 1988’s Edge, which saw him enjoy a John Farnham/ Whispering
Jack- style rebirth.
Braithwaite self-funded the album as most labels had written him off as a relic of the ’70s and his band, Sherbet. He had a nagging feeling Rise was missing one song.
Braithwaite had a cassette of Rickie Lee Jones’s album,
Flying Colours, to play producer Simon Hussey a song called The Horses.
Braithwaite: “God knows why I picked that album. I thought Simon could make it into something like As The
Days Go By. (CBS A&R man) Peter Karpin thought it was a strange selection.”
Karpin: “When he played it, I thought, ‘OK, Daryl ....’ I remember telling Simon, ‘I’m not sure about that song’.”
Hussey: “At the time my whole take on Daryl was he could be an Australian Peter Gabriel.”
The song features guitar work by Tommy Emmanuel and US guitarist Jef Scott, and backing vocals by NZ singer Margaret Urlich.
Urlich: “It was an organic thing. I did what I thought the song needed. Simon was calling from his deathbed, giving us a few instructions but I pretty much made it up as I went along. I didn’t really think much of it after all that, except Daryl did an incredible vocal and it was a cool song.”
Karpin: “I remember … hearing the track with Margaret’s vocals. I said, ‘They’re not backing vocals, it’s almost a duet … I thought it sounded like a single.”
The label went with the title track, Rise, as the album’s first single. It made No.23 in November 1990.
Chris Moss was working on the project for CBS.
The Horses was chosen as the second single, and given to radio in January 1991. It entered the ARIA chart at No.99 on February 10, 1991.
Braithwaite: “I remember CBS being adamant in promoting The Horses. God almighty, it was hard work. ”
Part of that promotion included the video.
Moss: “We went with Grant Matthews, who was a photographer and had done a lot of Rolling Stone shoots.”
Matthews: “They wanted to change his image a little bit, move it from how he was in Sherbet to something a little more sophisticated.”
There was one major problem: Urlich did not want to be involved.
Urlich: “I was in London recording my second album. I was so into that headspace. In retrospect it was probably a little bit silly.”
The solution: They’d hire a model to mime Urlich’s parts. Gillian Bailey (nee Mather) was chosen.
Bailey remembers being alarmed when told she’d need to mime.
Bailey: “I got the lyrics the night before the shoot and I had to learn them quickly. I was nicknamed Gilli Vanilli for a while.”
The Horses had a slow trajectory to the top, hitting No.1 on May 24, 1991, where it stayed for two weeks.
Daryl Braithwaite with Blinkbonnie Equestrian Centre horse Bailey.